Thursday 23 January 2020

Tech Review: Arguably the most interesting new camera of 2019 - Fujifilm X-Pro 3

Fujifilm X-Pro 3
Fujifilm X-Pro 3
Adrian Weckler

Adrian Weckler

More than any other mainstream camera company, Fujifilm likes to do things its own way. Its recently released X-Pro 3, which I've been using for almost a month, is more proof of this.

It is arguably the most interesting new camera of 2019. This is because it wants you to think about the photos you are taking in a more intense way than any other major camera I've tested in recent years.

It does this by partially hiding the rear touchscreen - you have to flip it down to see your shot. The result is that you don't 'chimp' (obsessively check shots after you've taken them) and spend a little more time being present in the composition of the photo through the hybrid optical-electronic viewfinder.

It's not obligatory. You can flip the screen down and use it to take photos (without using the viewfinder) or keep an eye on each photo as it's taken. But you probably won't. And that's the point of the X-Pro 3.

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To be sure, this won't be for everyone. I found it to be, at times, an awkward adjustment to my flow.

I have good grounds for comparison as I own and regularly use both an X-Pro 2 and an X-T3 as well as occasionally using the fixed-lens X-100F.

In general, I regard Fujifilm's boutique, semi-professional cropped-sensor cameras as a real treat to use. They fuse very handsome retro design with high-end modern mirrorless power. Even within this context, the X-Pro range has been my favourite because of its 'rangefinder' look. The distinctive feature this particular model has over almost every other camera you can buy is its hybrid viewfinder. You can switch from an electronic view - which most people now want, as it shows you what the picture will actually look like - to a traditional optical view, which lets you see more outside the frame of the actual photo. This feature pushed the price of the camera higher than the otherwise similarly endowed X-T series of cameras by €200 to €300, but devotees will pay the difference.

Is there enough of a difference for someone like me to upgrade from my X-Pro 2, which is still working well and which has withstood many knocks and falls? I'll answer that question in a few paragraphs. But first, I'll look at the main improvements Fujifilm has implemented.

The biggest difference, by far, is the flip-down touchscreen. (The X-Pro 2 has a fixed non-touchscreen.) But the other upgrades are mostly in the updated 26-megapixel sensor (the same as that in the X-T3 and smaller X-T30) and better abilities around eye-detection autofocus and video recording in 4K. The sensor is very good, adding a little extra to low-light photography capability. The other functions, while welcome, will probably be of less interest to an X-Pro user.

There is also an optional scratch-proof version you can get with this model, although I don't think it's necessary - and it costs more, too. The standard X-Pro case is titanium, which I have found to be very durable and tough. Last summer, I dropped the X-Pro 2 with a heavy lens on it while climbing Mount Snowdon in Wales. While the lens had to be fixed, the camera body was fine.

So for someone with an X-Pro 2, is this worth upgrading to? Or is it something to tempt those simply looking for a really good camera?

The X-Pro 3's strengths are similar to the X-Pro 2's: a gorgeous form factor that is simply more fun to pick up and use than most DSLRs or mirrorless cameras currently out there. This is a camera where the look and feel are not so much a bonus as a core part of why you would buy it. The quality of the imagery is also very, very good, partly because of the excellent tech in the camera and partly because of the superb lenses Fujifilm makes.

That said, this is relatively pricey. It's a full €400 more than the excellent X-T3, despite being almost technically identical in the photos and videos it produces. The justification, for those who need it, is the handling, style and the promise of the X-Pro 3 in helping you to focus less on the screen and more on being present in the photography moment.

These are very valid reasons. And if I did not already have an X-Pro 2, I would probably buy this. However, the X-Pro 2's problem is that it is too good. While the X-Pro 3 has that new sensor and the interesting flip-down touchscreen, I can't justify upgrading from the X-Pro 2 right now.

Other than the flip-down touchscreen, the leap isn't as big here as it was from the X-Pro 1 to the X-Pro 2. The X-Pro line is really about the joy of taking a photograph, not the actual tech specs.

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